Fire departments are 3 times more likely to experience a firefighter suicide than that of a line of duty death. And as leaders, both formal and informal, we must do a better job of preparing and training new firefighters, providing internal and external support for current firefighters, and providing transitional support to those firefighters who are entering retirement. We also need to address where the issues are most likely to manifest themselves first, at home. This is done by reaching out, offering training, and providing assistance to family members.
As leaders, we must be willing to gain an understanding of what kind of stress our personnel are under each day. Stressors such as marriage and family, financial, depression, addiction, and PTSD are caused by compounding issues that include: long shifts; disrupted sleep schedules; staff shortages; injuries; and potentially traumatic events and continous exposure.
This program is designed to have the disussion about firefighter suicide, the leading reasons for firefighter suicide, what stress is, and to create discussion on what the research is telling us. This program will review studies and research into firefighter suicide, addiction, substance abuse, and how it affects the firefighter and their marriage/family. We will discuss the tradition of the fire service in relation to this issue and how leadership can directly influence the positive change required to shift the culture to a culture that is more adapt to handle these issues. Finally, we will review case studies involving incomplete suicide attempts and completed suicide attempts within the fire service, how each case was handled, the events leading up to the incident, how the department responded to each incident, and the aftermath of each case. And finally, we will discuss the importance of Peer Support Teams and how to develop a Peer Support Team by building trust internally and building relationships with external partners.